Finding Home: Reflections on Family, Justice, and Hope

As the June Gloom settles over San Diego, veiling the city’s skyline in mist, my thoughts drift to the vivid world of Coco, the beloved animated film that celebrates the enduring bonds of family, the richness of heritage, and the strength needed to overcome life’s trials. Little did I anticipate that these profound themes would resonate deeply during my immersion in the realm of immigration legal services at Casa Cornelia Law Center. 

Our journey with Casa Cornelia began with an icebreaker session led by Ali O’Brien, Acacia Senior Program Associate. With a simple question — “What is your favorite kids’ movie?” — Ali sparked a lively exchange of cherished titles, among them Coco. This film holds a special place in my heart, serving as a beacon of solace during a challenging period of transition in my life. Through countless viewings with my son, Miguel’s journey in Coco became more than a tale; it became a source of connection, resonating deeply with our own narratives. This bond with Miguel’s story poignantly mirrored the universal themes of family and strength, which reverberate through the experiences of the children supported by Casa Cornelia. 

In Coco, Miguel embarks on a journey to uncover his family’s history, mirroring the pursuit of truth and justice that has characterized my 20+ years working in social justice and human rights. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered individuals whose tales of determination, amidst trials and uncertain futures, serve as poignant reminders of the injustices entrenched in our society. Witnessing Casa Cornelia’s trauma-informed efforts in San Diego brought these parallels into sharper focus. I observed young children grappling with intricate legal systems, their tender age contradicted by their remarkable courage and fortitude, echoing the determination portrayed by Miguel in Coco. The exceptional care provided by those supporting these children underscored the values of justice and empathy central to my work in the social justice field. 

Imagine if it were your own child, sibling, or friend embarking on a terrifying journey to a new country alone. They arrive seeking safety, only to be detained by government officials, sent to a shelter, and then face immigration court. Picture them having to make complex legal decisions on their own behalf, without the guidance of a trusted adult. The importance of safeguarding human rights in these situations cannot be overstated. It is essential to ensure these vulnerable individuals receive the legal protection and support they need. 

In the spirit of Miguel’s unwavering determination, attorneys like Kit Ryan from Pillsbury are modern-day warriors. Kit’s journey from audit support to taking on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and asylum cases after passing the bar exemplifies the courage and commitment of those fighting for justice. Kit’s personal connection to the immigration process is particularly poignant. Kit’s mother was born in Cuba and escaped the Castro regime, entering the U.S. through Mexico in the 1960s. Kit often says, “I owe my life to the process,” a sentiment that underscores the importance of the work being done at Casa Cornelia. This personal history fuels Kit’s dedication to supporting young immigrants today, ensuring they have the same opportunities for a better future. 

As I reflect on my experiences in San Diego with Casa Cornelia, I am reminded of the power of stories. Whether told through the lens of animated films or real-life experiences, themes of determination, family, and hope remain universal. The young immigrants’ journeys, supported by dedicated legal services, echo the timeless tales of Coco, illustrating that with support and determination, we can all find our way home. 

Here’s how you can help: 

  • Donate: Financial contributions help Acacia continue its mission of supporting organizations like Casa Cornelia. Consider donating today to support this vital work. 
  • Advocate: Raise awareness about the importance of humane immigration policies and the protection of immigrant children. Share information with your community and engage in discussions about the need for supportive legislation. 
  • Share: Spread the word about our work. Share this blog post and follow us on social media to stay informed and engaged. 
  • Learn More: Visit Casa Cornelia’s website to learn more about their initiatives and how you can get involved directly. 


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About Acacia Center for Justice

Acacia Center for Justice delivers and advocates for meaningful and effective access to justice and freedom for immigrants at risk of detention or deportation in partnership with an accountable, independent nationwide network of immigrant legal service providers and community partners. Acacia Center for Justice’s reach and impact are unparalleled. The national nonprofit currently operates seven federally funded programs and one state funded program through a network of nearly 60 legal service providers located in over 80 offices across the country.